Tea Review // Spring Tonic by Storm in a Teacup

Brand:   Storm in a Teacup
Tea:       Tisane/ herbal, loose-leaf
Name:    Spring Tonic
Cost:      $12/ 50ml

Spring arrived out of nowhere today. The sky turned to a pale hazy blue, the sun morphed into a white-golden blur and the air became thick with the buzz of crickets, birds and cicadas. For the first time in a while, the asphalt warmed my bare feet. Later in the evening, the air is balmy and still, the insects sing, mosquitoes nip at my ankles and moths charge at the window pane.

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I’ve been waiting for a magical, light-filled evening such as this to try out a new tea. Several weeks back, I asked my husband, in the midst of a trip to Melbourne, to visit a tea room I had discovered on Instagram. I stumbled across Storm in a Teacup when I searched for the song of the same name. To my delight, the user turned out to be a tea blender and tea room/ bar based in Collingwood, Melbourne (@tea_room_bar).

The tea tasting

Upon opening the packet, I was greeted by the familiar sweet scents of lemon, mint and what can only be compared to as fresh hay. Not only does this tea smell like spring, it looks like spring. Inside, I found a pretty mix of dried green leaves, yellow petals and whole calendulas.

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After steeping the tea for the recommended two minutes, the calendulas literally blossomed in my teapot. The tea sparkled with a golden-sunshine hue. Initially, the taste was sweet with mellow floral undertones. As I swirled it across my tongue, the distinctive yet subtle flavours of lemon balm, clover and calendula emerged. As I set my teacup back down, I was left with the reassuring cooling of spearmint.

The Tea Lady verdict?

A subtle and refreshing herbal tea, perfectly suited to the nurturing season of spring. A fantastically well thought-out blend (created by naturopath Misha Moran) to detoxify and balance the body.

I actually prefer it iced to hot. I steeped the tea for a second time, this time for a little bit longer (3 minutes) and added a couple of lemon slices and fresh mint from the garden. I then placed it in a jug inside the fridge for 3 hours, bottled it and took it to yoga – where it kept me energised and refreshed throughout the class.  A fantastic fitness alternative to water or energy drinks!

Where to buy? Visit Storm in a Teacup online, or if you’re in Melbourne head to their Tea Room and Bar in Collingwood.

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Liquorice tea + how I became a liquorice lover

Never in a million aeons did I ever think I’d learn to like liquorice. Growing up with a Swedish grandmother, I spent Christmas-after-Christmas surrounded by Scandinavians diving into tins of liquorice allsorts, twists and even SALTY liquorice.

I fell in love with liquorice tea quite by accident, after ordering a pot of cinnamon tea from a local café. It had a sweet, buttery aftertaste that I immediately fell head over heels for. Later, when I stumbled across that same tea in a health food store, I was flabbergasted to discover it contained liquorice root. What, me?! Like… liquorice?

Liquorice tea

What’s the deal here? How can a liquorice hater love liquorice tea? So I did some research: while both candy and tea are made with liquorice root, aniseed oil is added to liquorice confectionary to reinforce the liquorice flavour. Or ruin it, as far as I’m concerned! So all this time, it wasn’t the poor liquorice that was the problem: it was the aniseed oil, or possibly just the combination of the two. And considering liquorice is so polarising, I’m presuming there are a great deal of people out there, who like me, wrote off liquorice tea and are missing out.

So why do I love it so? Liquorice root tisane has an initial salty, mineral taste, which gives way to a sweet, soft, mellow flavour. My favourite part is the aftertaste: buttery, sweet and delicious, it lingers and tingles on the tip of your tongue.

It’s also good for you. Liquorice root tea has been used medicinally for centuries. It is said to treat upset stomach and heartburn, reduce inflammation, and treat the common cold. And that sweet flavour is not sugar but the liquorice root itself, which is up to 30 times sweeter than sugar cane.

Here are five of my favourite liquorice teas:

The Tea Hut – Liquorice Tea
Loose leaf, straight up liquorice root from Egypt.

Madame Flavour – Luscious Liquorice Tisane
Pyramid teabags containing large pieces of liquorice root, organic peppermint leaves, Australian aniseed myrtle leaf and whole fennel seeds.

Attic – Tea Clinic Stress Busting Tea
I picked this one up at a market in the UK. Loose leaf tea. Ingredients: black tea, peppermint, rose and small pieces of liquorice root.

Higher Living – Cinnamon (the tea I mentioned earlier!)
Teabags. Ingredients: cinnamon, whole fennel seeds, liquorice, citrus peel and ginger.

Tea 2 – Liquorice Legs
Loose leaf tea. Ingredients: liquorice root, peppermint and fennel.

Tea review // Popcorn Tea (Genmaicha)

Brand:   Perfect South
Tea:       Green, loose-leaf
Type:     Genmaicha
Cost:      $12/ 50ml

Green tea with cast iron teapot

Today I embarked on my first official Tea Lady tasting, armed with a cast-iron teapot, kettle, teacup and a fresh package of unopened tea.

I picked this one up at the Sydney Tea Festival a few weeks ago, after masochistically imposing a hideous rule upon myself: to purchase just one pack of green tea. Spoilt by choice, I circled several laps of the hall before following my gut instinct (and nose) to the Perfect South stand, where I decided on a 50ml pack of Australian-grown Genmaicha.

Genmaicha is my most beloved type of green tea. It’s a Japanese style that combines green tea leaves with roasted Japanese brown rice, a flavour pairing made in heaven. It’s often referred to as ‘popcorn tea’ because the rice pops during the roasting process.

Perfect South Genmaicha tea

Preparation

Boil:         90 degrees or let fully-boiled water cool for 4 minutes
Amount:  200ml small teapot // one teaspoon
Steep:      1 min (recommended brew time for Genmaicha is 30 secs- 1 min).

The tea teasting

Inside the brown paper packet I found small, dried yet fresh shincha leaves (tender new sencha leaves picked at the beginning of the harvest), stalks, and a wonderful amount of toasted brown rice. The tea to rice ratio (2-1) was perfect, the caramel-coloured rice puffs roasted to perfection.

Upon brewing the tea, the rice absorbed the water and became edible. The aroma from the teapot, both salty and sweet, made my stomach growl: hints of brown rice and seaweed echoed the smell of a sweet miso soup.

The liquor, when poured into my cup, sparkled with a light golden hue.

Tasting this tea took me on quite the journey: initially, the taste was subtle, slightly salty and grassy. Vegetal tones emerged as I swirled the liquor around my mouth. The familiar, slightly astringent taste of high-quality sencha, similar to that of spinach, emerged, but this was just a flash in the pan before the rice took over: salty and nutty to begin with, ending slightly sweet, toasty and buttery on the tip of my tongue. Like…. popcorn?!

This winning combination of salty and sweet was marvellously moreish, and I immediately boiled the kettle for a second cup.

The verdict?

Possibly the nicest Genmaicha I’ve ever tasted, and homegrown to boot. Who’d have thunk Australian-grown green tea could taste this good? Similar to Japanese-grown green tea, but something was definitely different, although I’m failing to place my finger/ tastebuds on it. Perfect South grow their tea leaves in the the sub-alpine valleys of Victoria, in a climate they claim is similar to that of the tea-growing regions of Japan. I was told that they sell only their two most recent harvests of shincha leaves, which explains the freshness.

A high-quality green tea that takes you on a superbly well-thought out journey of flavours. I love the packaging – simple and practical with no unnecessary extra bits to throw away.

Where to buy? Visit Perfect South’s website.

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But first, tea!

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I’ve always preferred tea to coffee. Raised by an English mother, the day never officially started until the kettle had boiled and a pot of tea was on the brew (Ceylon Orange Pekoe x Darjeeling). 

Tea is my biggest distraction and greatest motivator. How many words have I written fuelled by a hot cup of Sencha or a pot of Earl Grey? Spreadsheet, or another cup of Chai? Tax return, or 15 cups of Camomile? Tea can soothe me when I’m on the edge of mania, and inspire me when I’m a blank, useless chalkboard.

I recently visited The Tea Festival in Sydney and was overwhelmed by all the tea, glorious tea! An entire world of tea was on offer, little tasters poured into tiny paper cups: oolong, Australian-grown green tea, tisane blends I had never thought possible, and of course, all the traditionals. I burnt a whole in my wallet and chatted passionately with the various tea connoisseurs, blenders and enthusiasts in the building. 

This blog is my exploration of the world of tea: from Australia to China, Fiji to Sri Lanka, Africa to Japan. Matcha to kombucha, white tea to tisane, English Breakfast to jasmine pearls, and iced to bubble. I’ll review blends, brands, venues, events and wares. I’ll offer recipes, tips, how-to guides, photo-galleries and tea facts.

Better start my next blog post then. But first, tea… Green or black? Peppermint or liquorice?

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky